Detour in progress

Crews begin work on a detour along Callan Road to get drivers past the site of a rock slide on Highway 97 near Summerland.

An on-site detour is being built around a rock slide on Highway 97 between Peachland and Summerland.

Construction crews are linking a second part of Callan Road to the highway. The detour should be open by Monday or Tuesday.

It will offer drivers a much faster way to get between Peachland and Summerland than is currently possible using the 201 Forest Service Road on the east side of Okanagan Lake.

Delays are expected to be between five and 15 minutes, depending on traffic conditions, Ministry of Transportation staff suggested Thursday during a press conference.

All types of vehicles, including heavy trucks, will be allowed on the Callan Road detour. It will be one lane in either direction.

Crews are working two 10-hour shifts to build the second Callan Road link to the highway. About 4,000 cubic metres of fill is being deposited on the highway right-of-way to build the new link, which covers a distance of about 200 metres.

The Callan Road detour is sufficiently distant from the rock slide site that engineers have determined it is safe to use, said Paula Cousins, a ministry deputy director for the Southern Interior.

Meanwhile, there remains no estimate of when Highway 97, closed five days ago, will reopen to traffic. The slope where the slide occurred moved between six and 11 millimetres from Wednesday to Thursday, a distance called “concerning” by ministry staff.

The degree of movement on the slope means heavy equipment cannot be used on the site. Eight rock scalers were using hand tools on Thursday, and the overall plan to deal with the rock slide was being reassessed.

Asked if the highway closure might extend for months, Cousins said: “I would not use the term months at this point.”

The highway was closed last Saturday. The forest service road detour, which adds more than an hour to the normal travel time between Kelowna and Penticton, was opened on Monday.

With the ongoing highway closure, business has plunged by more than half at a Peachland restaurant.

Sam Vong, owner of the Dragon Lotus, wants people to know the restaurant is still open despite the ongoing highway closure.

“It’s been a big hit on us, that’s for sure,” Vong said Thursday. “But there’s not much we can do about it — just go through it.”

The restaurant is located along the highway on the south side of Peachland, between Renfrew Avenue and Hardy Street, about 12 kilometres from the rock slide.

Normally, more than half the customers either live in Summerland and other communities to the south, or have stopped in as they drive along Highway 97.

“We’re usually booked up on the weekend, but this past Saturday was very quiet,” Vong said. “The sooner the highway opens, the better.”

The restaurant is maintaining its regular hours of 4:30-8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

The Dragon Lotus is one of very few businesses on the highway between south Peachland and Summerland. Another is Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards at Greata Ranch.

“The road closure has definitely had some impact on the winery, as we are not seeing much highway traffic down this way,” said Kirsten Munro, the winery’s marketing manager.

“Usually we have people who see us on their drive and pop in for a tasting or to pick up a bottle, and we’re not seeing much of that at the moment,” Munro said.

Like the Dragon Lotus, however, the winery is maintaining regular hours, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

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